Why French Bulldogs Dig & What You Can Do About It


Why French Bulldogs Dig

I love our garden lawn, but unfortunately so does our Frenchie. I’ve spent hours trying to get the perfect looking grass and flower beds, only for Claude to go on a mad one, run about, and start digging up the earth. I don’t mind so much in the flower beds, but I cannot handle him digging up my nicely cut grass.

But why do French Bulldogs dig? Frenchies dig for a number of reasons including finding a place to cool off, to escape, to bury something, to look for prey, to find minerals lacking from their diet, or even as part of mating behaviour in female French Bulldogs.

As an owner, it’s not just the mess and aesthetics that present a problem. French Bulldog digging can also present a very real hazard. Our son stepped into a small hole in the lawn last week and turned his ankle. He was lucky not to hurt himself seriously.

I wanted to put a stop to our Frenchie digging up the garden and I asked on social media what other owners were doing to prevent their French Bulldog digging addiction. I want to stamp it out before the summer comes.

I had some amazing feedback from Frenchie owners all over the world, so decided to put the advice in a handy to understand guide. Read on and it will help you figure out why your French Bulldog digs, and how you can hopefully discourage or prevent it.

Why do French Bulldogs dig up your garden or yard?

Digging is doggy instinct. It’s built in to their genes but can be hugely frustrating for their owners.

But French Bulldog digging can’t always be attributed to instinct, it can be for a number of other reasons too, all of which I have gone into more detail on below.

1. Digging to escape

Frenchies are natural explorers and some people I spoke to mention that they find their dogs literally trying to dig out of the yard and garden.

But there could also be a more troubling reason; they want to escape from something that’s frightened them. It might be a thunderclap or a neighbour’s dog that they are trying to get away from.

2. Digging for critters and smells

One French Bulldog owner who responded to me said that her Frenchie digs holes in her yard because it can smell the moles underground. She believes her dog wants to get at the critters.

Lola in garden french bulldog digging holes
When Claude’s friend comes to visit, she loves the smells in our garden and can be tempted to dig.

Their keen sense of smell could also lead them to dig holes to get at something that might be buried underground.

3. Digging to create a cool place to lie down

Some dogs love to dig out an area to create themselves a cool place to lie down in. As you should already know, French Bulldogs do not cope with heat at all (which I discuss in the Frenchie health issues guide).

By digging, they can get some respite from the summer heat and lay down into cooler earth underneath the surface. Frenchie digging is very common with owners who live in warmer climates.

4. Digging to mimic their owners

I can identify with this one, as Claude dug his first ever hole in our garden on the very same day that I had planted some new flowers.

Frenchies are renowned as being good imitators of other behaviours, particularly their owners, so it could just be your dog copying what he’s seen you doing outdoors.

5. Digging due to boredom

It could simply be that your French Bulldog is bored. What better way to spice up his life than digging a hole and creating some lovely mess to roll around in?

Our own Frenchie loves mud as you can see in the photo below, so it stands to reason that he would want to create his own mud bath in our garden or yard.

why does my french bulldog dig holes
Frenchies love mud and messy play. Digging into holes can give them a place to cool down, so this could be the reason your dog exhibits this behaviour.

6. Digging to eat the dirt

One of the more concerning Frenchie digging problems could be where they actually dig up earth and dirt, and then eat it. The reason dogs eat dirt is to compensate for mineral deficiencies in their diet or when they have an upset stomach (very common with Frenchies).

If your French Bulldog is digging and eating the dirt, it could signal a health problem. Make sure you consult with your vet as they could have something called the pica condition (source).

7. Digging to hide something

Another reason your French Bulldog is digging holes could be that they simply want to bury something or seek shelter.

This is instinctive behaviour comes from their ancestry where they would have to hide bones and food so other dogs wouldn’t eat their stash. Frenchies have to be one of the greediest dogs I’ve ever known of, so this reason makes a lot of sense.

8. Digging due to mating instincts

Your French Bulldog could be digging due to a mating instinct. For example, if you have a male who hasn’t been neutered it might be his way of getting out so he can find the local ladies.

With female Frenchies who have not been spayed or ones that are pregnant, digging holes might be part of their ritual to prepare for birth.

Handy Hint: If you think your female Frenchie could be pregnant you can check these warning signals that should help you recognise the signs that puppies are on the way! 

9. Digging due to anxiety

French Bulldogs suffer from separation anxiety (find out more here). It’s a common trait. I spoke to plenty of owners who left their dogs at home for a few hours, only to come home to carnage in their outdoor space.

One owner said that her French Bulldog has the run of the yard and will always dig holes outside if left for more than an hour alone. It could be where the dog is trying to escape to find their owner or some human company.

10. Digging through lack of exercise

Your Frenchie could be digging due to a lack of exercise and needing to burn off some of his excess energy. We walk Claude twice a day for around 20 minutes each time so I’d hope this isn’t the reason he digs.

Has this stopped him from digging? No, it hasn’t, but I do think it could help with dogs who don’t get as much exercise as they should do.

How to stop a French Bulldog from digging holes?

Now that you know why your French Bulldog is digging holes, it’s time to see if you can put a stop to it. The following digging prevention methods are part due to some books I read on the subject, and part due to feedback I had from other Frenchie owners.

1. Keep your French Bulldog inside

The most obvious solution to hole digging is to simply not let your Frenchie outdoors unless supervised. But even when they are outside with you, there’s no guarantee they won’t dig. Our own Frenchie can dig a small hole in under 10 seconds and is as quick as a whistle.

But this does play into a larger tip; no French Bulldog should be left outdoors (find out why). Leaving them outdoors for prolonged periods of time can lead to larger problems far greater than just a few holes in the ground.

2. Create a fenced off area

Our Frenchie can come and go outdoors as often as he pleases in order to go to the toilet. We have a dog flap on our back door which goes out into the garden.

However, once he’s out of the dog flap, he is then into a fenced off area which is about 10 by 10 feet. By only letting him have access to this fenced off section, it means we have complete control over him so he can’t dig holes in our garden without us being with him.

We laid down patio slabs in his fenced off section which makes it easier for us to clean up his poop, but also means he cannot dig up the garden when left alone.

If you do have a fenced off area, make sure you clean their poop up quickly. This not only stops them from treading in it and bringing the dirt indoors, but also helps to stop your Frenchie eating poop (find out why they eat poop and how to prevent it).

3. Create a digging area

You might not have the budget to create a fenced off area though, so you could actually give your French Bulldog an area of his own in which to dig.

One owner I spoke to has created an area in his yard where he lets his Frenchie dig. However, he said it had taken a little bit of practice and discipline to make sure he sticks to it.

He did it by using some sticks to create a perimeter on the lawn where digging is allowed. He then buried some treats and toys in the dirt to encourage his Frenchie to only dig in this designated area.

As with all Frenchie training, he used positive reinforcement and praise each time his dog made a hole in the digging area. The owner said that his Frenchie was fully trained to only dig holes in this area after a couple of weeks.

4. Make sure you wear them out

A few of the Frenchie owners I spoke with said their dogs dig the most when they haven’t had their daily walks.

Whilst Frenchies aren’t a breed that need a lot of exercise, they still need to need a certain level of activity. See what difference some daily exercise can make to their digging habits.

claude and lola in garden
They might look cute now, but once they get bored with their toys, digging could be next on the agenda!

5. Take care of your Frenchie

Some of the digging reasons I highlighted earlier in this guide were a result of dietary and behavioural problems.

I assume that you are a responsible dog owner, but be honest with yourself and ask whether your dog is getting the attention, diet, and care that they need.

It could be that you need to adjust your own behaviour with your dog and make adjustments to how you care for him.

It’s a sad fact that not all dog owners truly understand what makes their furry friend tick.

Conclusion

Let’s be honest, digging isn’t the worst problem in the world that your French Bulldog can have. Yes, it is annoying, particularly if your dog destroys all the hard work you’ve put into your outdoor area.

However, a Frenchie digging holes could be the sign of a more serious problem.

If your dog is addicted to digging, try to figure out why using the tips above and then work towards a solution.

You might have to spend a lot of time indoors with your pup, and you might have to invest time figuring out why your French Bulldog digs.

As with most things related to Frenchie behaviour, there is normally a very good reason why they do something.

But what about Claude? Why was my Frenchie digging holes?

I think I finally figured it out one morning last week.

Our garden backs onto woods, and there are loads of squirrels in the trees. I opened the curtains to see two of the critters on our lawn digging little holes in the lawn and then burying their nuts.

It was in exactly the same area of the garden where Claude had been digging, which makes me think he knows what they are doing due to the smell.

All I need to do now is figure out a way to stop the squirrels and hopefully I can resolve my dog’s digging problem!

Handy Hint: Is your French Bulldog eating grass? If so, find out why they do this and how you can help to prevent it in my guide to Frenchie grass eating.

Marc Aaron

I am one of Claude the French Bulldog's human parents. I write about all the things I've learned about owning a Frenchie, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way. Read more about Marc Aaron.

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